New ZenFones and the Transformer Book Chi from Asus

At its CES press conference, the company showed off smartphones and PC hybrids.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- At the company's CES 2015 press conference, Asus Chairman Jonney Shih unveiled new products in two categories, hybrid Windows PCs and photo-friendly smartphones.

The Transformer Book Chi series is a collection of hybrid Windows devices that act as both laptop and tablet. These are detachable hybrids, which means they start as traditional-looking clamshell laptops, and then offer users the ability to detach the display from the rest of the body. As the CPU, RAM, hard drive, and other components are packed behind the display, the detached screen can now be used as a standalone Windows tablet.

While the Transformer Book line itself is not new, this Chi series is, and these devices are available in three sizes: 8.9, 10.1 and 12.5 inches. The Chi models differ from previous Transformer Books in that they are made of aluminium instead of plastic, and some use Intel's high-end new Core M processor.


The Core M is designed to work with premium laptops, tablets, and hybrids that are energy efficient enough to run without fans, and these Chi models are fanless, allowing them to be especially slim and quiet.

The T300 Chi has a 12.5-inch display and will be offered with either a 1,920x1,080 or 2,560x1,440 screen resolution, along with the Intel Core M. The starting price in the US is $699 or $799 for the higher-resolution screen. That's a lot less than the best-known slim Core M hybrid, the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, which starts at $1,199. Shih called it his "ultimate dream machine," and showed how the 12.5-inch model was thinner than the MacBook Air.

The 10.1-inch T100 Chi sticks with Intel's lower-end Atom processor, as seen in earlier Transformer Book systems, and has a 1,900x1,200-resolution display, and starts at $399 in the US.

With an 8.9-inch screen, the smallest of the Chi systems, the Chi T90, is closer to a tablet, even though it still includes an attachable keyboard to form a small clamshell. That model has a 1,280x800 display. It also uses an Intel Atom CPU and starts at $299 in the US. All three sizes will be available in February, but international pricing and availability has not yet been announced for any of the models.

Making the Chi hybrids stand out from a crowded field, the included keyboards attach by a strong magnetic hinge, but are also connected via Bluetooth, allowing you to use them from some distance away.

The ZenFone Zoom. Asus

Asus also introduced a new flagship smartphone, the ZenFone 2, and a photo-centric phone, the ZenFone Zoom, which features a 3X optical zoom.

The ZenFone 2 is powered by Intel's Atom Z3580 processor, a quad-core 64-bit CPU, and includes 4GB of RAM. It's brushed-metal design tapers to only 3.9mm thick at the edges, and moves the volume control to the rear panel for easy finger access. The 5.5-inch IPS display, covered with Gorilla Glass 3, has full-HD resolution, and the main camera is a 13MP model with a wide f/2.0 aperture lens.

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The ZenFone 2 takes Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop, and overlays its own custom ZenUI, which includes new gesture controls (such as swiping the shape of the letter "e" to open your email), and plenty of customization options.

In the US, the ZenFone 2 will be available in March for $199.

A step beyond that for photographers is the ZenFone Zoom, which Asus claims is the world's thinnest phone with a 13MP camera and 3X optical zoom. The phone also has an optical image stabilizer and speedy laser auto-focus. A macro function allows the subject to be as close as 5cm to the lens.

For advanced users, the phone's manual mode allows for what Asus calls "professional-grade" manual control of ISO settings, white balance, shutter speed and more. The phone will cost $399 internationally, and be available sometime in the second quarter, but actual US release plans are not yet confirmed.